Journalist says high-ranking police detective's murder could be tied to case against former Russian Railways president, who is now threatening to sue

Meduza

Novaya Gazeta special correspondent Irek Murtazin thinks Interior Ministry detective Evgeniya Shishkina was murdered this week possibly because she may have unearthed “explosive” information about an alleged corruption scheme orchestrated by the family of former Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin.

Fresh from spreading rumors about the treason case against Sergey Mikhailov and Ruslan Stoyanov, Murtazin’s latest special report pours cold water on theories that Shishkina’s murder was connected to either (1) an innocent man she arrested in a drug bust and then allegedly extorted, or (2) her investigation into cyber-criminals who stole frequent flyer miles from Aeroflot customers. Murtazin says internal investigators never corroborated the extortion charges, and says Shishkina hasn’t worked any drug cases in years. Additionally, he argues that the Aeroflot case has already progressed far enough that it’s now in the hands of prosecutors, not investigators, meaning that her murder won’t help the suspects.

Murtazin says Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation was the first group to draw attention to Yakunin’s embezzlement scheme, which involves his son earning “shares” on train tickets sold by two firms that he owns through a network of shell companies. Navalny published his investigation in April 2014, and almost two years later he announced that the Interior Ministry had “opened a preliminary investigation.” That case was reportedly supervised by an officer named Andrey Stepanov, who apparently reported directly to Evgeniya Shishkina.

The investigation into Yakunin’s suspicious ticket sales supposedly went dormant again for several months, until FSB agents arrested anti-corruption police colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko in September 2016, for allegedly receiving billions of rubles in bribes, with large chunks coming from the co-owner of the largest Russian Railways’ contractor, 1520 Group. The revelations refocused the Interior Ministry’s attention on Russian Railways, Murtazin says.

Fitting together these puzzle pieces of circumstantial evidence, Murtazin speculates that Shishkina’s police unit dug up “explosive” documents and information about Yakunin’s illegal operations, which triggered the threats, and then an arson attack against her car, and finally her murder.

Update. Following the publication of Murtazin's article, Vladimir Yakunin's spokesperson, Grigory Levchenko, issued the following statement: “The allegations made in the Novaya Gazeta article are completely false, including the outrageous reference to Yakunin in the context of the tragic death of the investigator. The journalist regurgitated baseless claims, and generally took 2 + 2 to equal 17. While using the Yakunin name might be good to maximize clicks and score political points, this was shocking journalism and we will take all necessary legal measures to demonstrate this.”